By Jake Donovan
Not only was there not any scale drama on Friday, but Oscar Valdez and Jason Sanchez were well within the contracted limit for their forthcoming title fight.
All participants made weight on the first try for Saturday’s show at Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada. Headlining the show—which will air live on ESPN (Saturday, 10:00pm ET)—will be a 12-round featherweight title fight between long-reigning titlist Valdez and an unbeaten first-time challenger in Sanchez.
Valdez (25-0, 20KOs) tipped the scales at a trim and ready 125.4 pounds, his lightest weight since his first title defense more than two years ago. Sanchez (14-0, 7KOs) checked in at 124.8 pounds, the lightest he’s weighed since Dec. 2016.
The bout will mark Valdez’s fourth versus an unbeaten opponent over the course of a title reign coming up on its three-year anniversary. The 28-year old from Nogales, Mexico—who trains in Southern California—claimed the belt in 2nd round knockout of then-undefeated Matias Rueda in July 2016, followed by a 2nd round knockout of Hiroshige Osawa where he weighed a title career low 125.25 pounds.
The defending titlist enters his sixth title defense on the heels of a 2nd round knockout of previously unbeaten Carmine Tommasone this past February in Frisco, Tex and also his second fight with renowned trainer Eddy Reynoso. Saturday’s title defense will be dedicated to the memory of lovable longtime boxing fan Juan Betancourt—best known as “Juan Beezee”—who passed away in late May after suffering a heart attack.
Sanchez (14-0, 7KOs) enters his first career title fight less than a year removed from the biggest win of his career. The 24-year old featherweight came up aces in a 10-round decision win over then-unbeaten and highly touted Puerto Rican prospect Jean Carlos Rivera last October in Panama City. He added a stay-busy win on the undercard of Valdez’s aforementioned knockout over Tommasone this past February.
Included among the undercard are a pair of rising prospects whom drastically vary in terms of in-ring entertainment.
Robson Conceicao (12-0, 6KOs) weighed in at 127.8 pounds for an eight-round featherweight bout versus Mexico’s Carlos Ruiz (16-6-2, 6KOs), who weighed 127.2 pounds. Conceicao made history in becoming the first-ever boxer from Brazil to win an Olympic Gold medal, doing so at home during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
His pro career has produced mixed results even if always ending with a win. The 30-year old seems stuck between styles, on most nights settling for a victory even at the expense of drawing boos from the crowd. It wasn’t an issue in his last outing, scoring a 1st round knockout this past March in Brazil, his first fight at home since his Gold medal win.
Also on the show, Stockton (Calif.) attraction Gabriel Flores Jr. returns just one month after making a splash in his ESPN debut. The 19-year old super featherweight prospect made the most of his time in the spotlight, scoring a 2nd round knockout of Eduardo Pereira dos Reis in front of more than 10,000 in his Stockton hometown this past May.
Flores Jr. (13-0, 6KOs) will have a smaller crowd in tow, but a presence on hand nevertheless as he faces Salvador Briceno (15-3) in an eight-round super featherweight heat. Flores checked in at a healthy 132.8 pounds, while Mexico’s Briceno weighed 132.2 pounds for his U.S. debut.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox